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Two new professors appointed at the Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics

With the appointment of two new professors, the Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics (QGG) is strengthening its position as one of the world’s leading centers for research in plant, animal, and human genetics and genomic selection.

2020.08.24 | Jette Odgaard Villemoes

Luc Janss

Doug Speed

Luc Janss and Doug Speed are both appointed as professors in statistical genetics. However, in his research Doug Speed will focus specifically on human genetics, while Luc Janss is mainly working in plant and animal genetics.

For several years, Luc Janss, who has a research background in The Netherlands, has held a position as senior researcher at QGG, before he was appointed professor in March 2020. At QGG he has been one of the leading forces in the development of several software programmes for analysing genetic and genomic data. Especially the software programme Bayz has been used extensively inside and outside QGG for Bayesian gene mapping and Bayesian genomic prediction. Luc Janss has been one of the driving forces behind the development and implementation of genomic selection in plant breeding in Denmark, which started with a GUDP project on ryegrass in 2011.

Luc Janss’ current work concentrates on methods to handle large numbers of phenotypes in Bayesian genome wide association studies and genomic prediction, and to develop new approaches for modelling and understanding genotype-environment interactions using multi-omics data. At Aarhus University, these methods are applied in the plant and animal field.

Doug Speed finished his PhD in statistical genetics at Cambridge University in 2010, and has been an AIAS fellow at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies from 2017 until the end of May 2020. He was appointed professor at QGG 3 June.

The main focus of Doug Speed’s research is developing and releasing new methods for analysing data from genetic studies. In 2012 he created the LDAK Software (www.ldak.org). LDAK was originally designed to more precisely estimate SNP heritability, the total proportion of phenotypic variation explained by all SNPs (a type of genetic variant). If a trait has high SNP heritability, then we will be more likely to find the genetic factors that affect the trait, and will be able to construct more accurate genetic prediction models. The use of LDAK has demonstrated that many common diseases (e.g., Schizophrenia, Type I & II Diabetes, Ulcerative Colitis) have substantially higher SNP heritability than previously realised. LDAK now also contains tools for identifying the important genetic factors, for constructing prediction models, and for better understanding the biology underlying complex traits.

Doug Speed recently started his own research group funded by a Marie Curie Fellowship, Sapere Aude Fellowship and a Lundbeck Foundation Award, which he will bring with him to QGG.

QGG’s center director, professor Mogens Sandø Lund, is happy with the two new appointments:

“With these appointments, QGG is manifested as a leading research center for statistical genetics. Developing novel genomic methods and tools, for the plant, livestock, and human fields, we can now fully exploit the knowledge transfer between fields”, he explains, and adds:

“The recruitment of Doug Speed further enables QGG to focus on human genetics and be a strong contributor to the personalized health initiatives at Aarhus University”.

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Date, time and place for the two professors’ inaugural lectures will be announced later.

Read more about Luc Janss here.

  Read more about Doug Speed here.

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